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Ultrasonic sensing uses the propagating sound waves at a frequency above the range of human hearing (>20kHz) that can travel through a wide variety of mediums (air, fluid, or solid) to detect objects, measure distance, or track disturbances. Ultrasonic sensors can be used to detect a wide variety of materials regardless of shape, transparency, or color.
For an overview on ultrasonic sensing fundamentals, TI recommends you begin by reading the Ultrasonic Sensing Basics application note.
TI offers a variety of ultrasonic sensing ICs. The objective of this FAQ is to help recommend a specific TI ultrasonic sensing device based on the application use-case and system requirements.
Ultrasonic Sensing Application
Measure Distance and Proximity
Measure Flow Rate and Direction of Liquid, Gas, or Heat
Measure Concentration and Material Identification
Object Tracking and Mapping
Material Thickness and Flaw Detection
Monitor Changes to Environment
Use a single sensor to both generate and capture a round-trip time-of-flight echo to measure the distance between the sensor and the targeted object.
Use two sensors to capture the difference of transit time propagating in and against the flow direction as an independent upstream and downstream measurement.
Use a single sensor to both generate and capture a round-trip time-of-flight echo to measure the changes in the speed of sound based on a fixed-known distance.
Use at least two transducers with a fixed-known distance between on another. One transducer must always be used to generate and capture a round-trip time-of-flight echo, while the other transducers must only capture the round-trip time-of-flight echo. By comparing the resulting time of flight differences through triangulation.
Use a single sensor to both generate and capture a round-trip time-of-flight to measure the thickness of a solid object, and determine if there are any voids within the solid. The transducer face must be made to couple to the solid material type for direct transducer to solid contact.
Use two transducers, one to continuously generate the ultrasonic echo, and the other to continuously capture the difference in return echo zero-crossing frequency (Doppler shift).
TI Top Device Pick
Why Top Pick
The PGA460 was designed specifically to measure distance using ultrasonic time-of-flight. The integrated driver, receiver, ADC, and digital signal processing logic simplifies the steps required to capture this time-of-flight data.
The Texas Instruments MSP430FR604x and MSP430FR603x family of ultrasonic sensing and measurement SoCs are powerful, highly integrated microcontrollers (MCUs) that are optimized for water and heat meters.
The TUSS4470 supports the widest range of transducer frequencies from 30kHz to 1MHz to properly couple the transducer and enable this measurement through nearly all gases, liquids, or solids.
Multiple TUSS4470 devices can be easily synchronized due to the device’s ability to independently enable the receiver path regardless of the driver block’s state. This means the start of the pulse generation can be used as the sole time-of-flight origin reference for all devices.
To propagate sound waves through a solid, a large amount of sound pressure must be generated by using a transformer driver. The TUSS4440 is able to generate hundreds of volts to excite transducer, while normalizing the time-of-flight echo response regardless of the flaw dimensions.
The TUSS4470’s built-in zero-crossing feature allows the receiver to continuously monitor the incoming echo frequency. If the object is approaching the sensor, the zero-crossing frequency will increase, while an object leaving will cause the zero-crossing frequency to decease.
Recommended Evaluation Tool
Enable near 0mm detection by using a bi-static transducer pair for a separate transducer to generate the echo, and another transducer to capture the round-trip time-of-flight.
TI no longer recommends using the TDC1000 for flow rate application due to known stability and accuracy issues of the device’s STOP pulse generation.
Enable one-way measurements by using a bi-static transducer pair facing each other for a separate transducer to generate the echo, and another transducer to capture the one-way time-of-flight
As transducers are added to the receiver array, the accuracy and addition details of the object to be tracked or mapped are increased.
It is important to use a contact transducer acoustic matched to the solid you are measuring the thickness of. Improper transducer face type or poor mounting will result in invalid results.
Monitoring the Doppler shift of the return echo is one method of seeking changes to the environment. Capturing the echo envelope over time per time-of-flight measurement is another way to monitor environmental changes by comparing the latest record cycle to the previous record cycle.
TI Ultrasonic Sensing IC Device Comparison:
TDC1011 / TDC1000
Analog front-end + digital signal processor (integrated)
Supported transducer frequencies
40 kHz – 1 MHz
40 – 440 kHz (pre-drive)
40 – 500 kHz
30 – 80 kHz & 180 –
50 kHz – 2.5 MHz
31.25 kHz – 4 MHz
TDC1011: 1 Channel
TDC1000: 2 Channel
- Direct drive (max 36 V)
- Transformer drive
- Direct drive with added
Direct drive (max 3.3V)
Direct drive (max 5V)
86 dB logarithmic amplifier
6 point time-varying gain
(32 to 90 dB)
Fixed gain (6.5 to 30.8 dB)
Fixed gain (20 to 41 dB)
- Analog echo envelope
- Zero crossing
- Envelope threshold detect
- DSP processed output (time-of-flight, amplitude, width)
- Echo data dump (down-sampled echo envelope)
- Raw digital data path (ADC, bandpass filter, rectifier, lowpass filter)
- Flow rate
- DSP processed output (time-of-flight)
- Echo start and stop pulse
On-chip temperature sensor
Interface to RTD
- System diagnostics (frequency, decay, excitation voltage)
- Supply diagnostics
Automotive qualified device
- SPI for programming
- Analog output
- USART (UART + SPI)
Ultrasonic FAQ Archives:
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